THE FLYERS swore coming into their game with Buffalo that their history of playing down to opponents after playing well against good teams was just that, the past.
History seems to repeat itself sometimes.
The Flyers followed up Saturday night's emotional win against the Rangers by limping out of the gate and recovering late in a 4-3 overtime loss to Buffalo, which came into Wells Fargo Center with a 2-6 record.
"We got to find a way to be prepared for it," winger Jake Voracek said. "We have to take that game (against Buffalo) as if we are playing the Rangers, Chicago or Pittsburgh. It doesn't matter. It's an NHL hockey game. We have to find a way to get two points."
The Flyers had a prime offensive chance during the wild, three-on-three overtime session and nearly escaped with a second point. But Buffalo goalie Chad Johnson stopped Scott Laughton on the doorstep and the Sabres went down and scored just over 30 seconds later when Zemgus Girgensons got his first point of the season, scoring on a breakaway with the overtime winner.
"It's tough out there," Flyers goalie Steve Mason said of the three-on-three. "It's just chance after chance, and it's Grade-A chances. That's why so many games are being ended in the overtime."
The Flyers were lucky enough just to get there.
In the third period, when you'd least expect it, considering the way the Flyers were playing, Laughton came roaring down the left wing, blew by Sabres defenseman Cody Franson and patiently waited to slide a pass across to Brayden Schenn, who tied the score at two apiece with his third goal of the season with 11 minutes, 46 seconds remaining.
It looked as if the Flyers would steal a point or two they didn't deserve after playing inconsistently much of the night.
But Buffalo came right back and reclaimed its lead less than a minute-and-a-half later, when defenseman Jake McCabe fired a shot from the point that got through traffic and past Mason.
Almost 10 minutes of play, mostly dominated by Buffalo, went by before Schenn struck again. With Mason out of the net and the Flyers up a man, six-on-five, captain Claude Giroux sent a wrist shot toward the Sabres' net. Schenn was able to get a piece of Giroux' shot and deflect it by Johnson with 53 seconds left to help the Flyers escape with a point.
At times, such as on a second-period power play, the Flyers dominated the action. But for long stretches of the game, they lacked intensity and were slow to pucks.
"We couldn't sustain anything from one shift to the next on a consistent basis," coach Dave Hakstol said. "But, in saying that, we found a way to continue staying with it and push to get to overtime."
The Sabres got on the board first just over six minutes into the game. Buffalo forwards Tyler Ennis and Ryan O'Reilly were strong on the forecheck behind the Flyers' net. The two caused havoc to Flyers defenseman Evgeny Medvedev. While falling down, Ennis made a swipe at the puck with his stick and was able to somehow bank it in off Mason, who stopped 36 shots.
"I was in good position," Mason said. "I wouldn't have played it any differently, it just found a hole."
The Sabres added to their lead just over four minutes later. With Giroux in the penalty box for a roughing minor, Buffalo capitalized with a beautiful, tic-tac-toe setup finished by a Johan Larsson pass across the crease to Jamie McGinn for a tap-in goal to put the Sabres up, 2-0, just over midway through the first period.
A few minutes later, the Flyers' night got much more difficult when fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare went down with what the Flyers called a "lower-body injury" and did not return.
The Flyers (4-2-2) were forced to play the final 65 minutes with their remaining 11 forwards.
They got a little boost right after Bellemare - who couldn't put weight on his right leg - was helped off the ice by Wayne Simmonds. Bellemare's linemate, Chris VandeVelde, accepted a tape-to-tape pass from Ryan White at the Sabres' blue line, skated in down the left side of the slot and fired a wrist shot past Johnson. The goal, which came with 5:40 left in the opening frame, snapped a 23-game goalless drought for VandeVelde. His last goal was on March 7 last season.
The Flyers seemed to feed off VandeVelde's goal. A 9-2 shot deficit was just 11-7 when the first period came to a close, with Buffalo on its heels. But that momentum died during the intermission. Somehow, the Flyers revived themselves late and got a point they probably didn't deserve.
"We didn't play our best game and that's kind of unacceptable," VandeVelde said. "We just have to come out here and be ready to play. Tonight we were behind the eight ball. We're fortunate. Obviously, we battled back. That says something right there. But we fell short, and they deserved it a little more."